Angel Food Donuts Exterior


Angel Food Donuts Sign

This giant donut has tempted passing motorists for more than fifty years.


The franchise operator agreed to save and re-purpose the Angel Food Donuts Sign following public outcry in 2014

Place Details


5590 East 7th Street,
Long Beach, California 90804
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Property Type


Photo by L.A. Conservancy


Rising high above the roof of a former Angel Food Donuts in Long Beach, this giant donut sign has been a highly visible feature to motorists traveling along E. 7th Street for over five decades. It is a classic example of programmatic signage which, like programmatic architecture, is fashioned in the shape of a business’s product or identity.

Programmatic signage such as giant donuts was highly visible and instantly recognizable to travelling motorists along southern California’s major boulevards. They also reflect the evolution of roadside commercial signage during the postwar era, when signs reached incredible dimensions in response to the auto’s prominence in society.

Large-scale signage such as giant donuts is an increasingly rare resource type, often classified by cities as “existing non-conforming,” as many communities have enacted signage ordinances that restrict the size and dimensions of newly constructed signage.

Such restrictive ordinances governing signage have left most communities with a finite amount of potentially historic signage from the postwar era. Often these signs are removed as businesses change from one use to another.

About This Place

About This Place

Angel Food Donuts opened several locations throughout Long Beach between the 1950s and 60s, each featuring similar signage fashioned into the likeness of a giant donut perched atop single or twin poles for maximum visibility.

This location last operated as The Daily Grind espresso bar; the operators left the giant donut signage in place and repainted it to depict a faux glaze of pink frosting.

Southern California once contained the largest collection of Programmatic buildings and signage. These places epitomize the growth and development of cities such as Long Beach at a particular point in time.

The 1950s and ’60s were decades of great prosperity and development, fueled in large part to the growing reliance on the car and the culture that developed around this new-found freedom.

The Angel Food Donuts Sign is now a rare symbol of this era and approach to roadside advertising as well as architecture. It is one of Long Beach’s most iconic landmarks and represents the postwar optimism and whimsy of the city in a way few other places can.

Our Position

The giant donut signage atop the former Angel Food Donuts was threatened with removal to make way for a new location of Dunkin’ Donuts. The franchisee, Frontier Restaurant Group, proposed to demolish the two onsite structures, a liquor store, and the former Angel Food Donuts, and construct a new one-story, 1,889 square foot fast food restaurant in its place.  As part of the proposed development, the franchisee planned to donate the giant donut signage to the city of Long Beach.

As reported in the Orange County Register, franchisee Frontier Restaurant Group rejected a proposal to include the big donut in its design of the new Dunkin’ Donuts for the site, stating they “didn’t want the doughnut structure because the snack no longer measures up to its core menu.”

However, many Long Beach residents didn’t want to see the character of their neighborhood changed with the loss of the distinctive donut signage, which has been a part of the streetscape for over fifty years.

Both the Los Angeles Conservancy and local advocacy group Long Beach Heritage believed that an obvious “win-win” solution could be readily achieved, particularly because the site’s new operator is a donut chain.

The owner of the property had previously offered to donate the sign to the City of Long Beach, whereby it would be placed in storage. This approach would not have been an appropriate method of preservation or material conservation, as the donut would have been unlikely to ever return as a sign for the public to enjoy, nor is the City equipped to store, care for, or maintain this type of sign long-term.

The Conservancy believes the Angel Food Donuts Sign is historic and should be treated as such as part of the California Environmental Equality Act (CEQA). In 2009, the City of Long Beach specifically identified the Angel Food Donuts Sign as part of its Historic Context Statement, stating, “[N]ow valued not only for their implicit humor but also as cultural artifacts, programmatic architecture when encountered should be considered significant, even though it might be altered.”

The project required discretionary approval for a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) by the City of Long Beach. We urged the City to consider a preservation alternative that retains and reuses the sign before granting the CUP.

Long Beach has other Angel Food Donuts locations, each featuring a similar building and giant donut perched on a sign. While they are similar, others (for example, at 3657 Santa Fe Avenue and 3860 Long Beach Boulevard) appear to have more distinctive buildings with architectural detailing. While we welcome the reuse of the existing building, a new Dunkin’ Donuts building can also occur while retaining and incorporating the existing signage.

Other chains and franchises have successfully repurposed original signs and buildings for new uses — including Dunkin’ Donuts in other parts of the country. This site offers full flexibility for Dunkin’ Donuts to build a new store that includes all their desired amenities while maintaining and repurposing the landmark Angel Food Donuts Sign.

Some other buildings in Los Angeles County featuring donuts include The Donut Hole  in La Puente, built in 1968, and Randy’s Donuts  in Inglewood, built in 1953.